The USMNT loss to Japan in the pre-World Cup friendly raises more questions than answers

With the start of the 2022 World Cup just two months away, the United States go into the friendly against Japan in Dusseldorf with optimism. A gleeful Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams joked with reporters just 20 hours earlier, while manager Gregg Berhalter addressed the abilities of some of his short-term substitutes.

Instead, when the final whistle blew in a 2-0 loss, USMNT supporters were filled with worry and doubt as the USA were clearly beaten by another World Cup contender.

Japan fully deserved the 2-0 win, confusing a USMNT side that looked without answers and leaving fans with plenty of questions with the FIFA Showcase just eight weeks away. For a young American team set to go into the World Cup with pomp and flair to reverse the failures of the 2018 cycle, they had to lick their wounds thanks to goals from Daichi Kamada and Kaoru Mitoma.

The USMNT will have another chance to quell the unrest with a game against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday as Berhalter has many issues to resolve before the USA take on Wales in Qatar on November 21.

MORE: Full recap, analysis, highlights of USMNT’s 2-0 loss to Japan

Matt Turner shines in goal against Japan

Despite all the negative aspects – of which there were many – clarifying the position of the goaltender was a key for the USMNT this September camp. With Zack Steffen injured recently, the spot predicts Matt Turner to win or lose despite his lack of playing time at Arsenal.

Turner’s role as No. 2 at his club didn’t seem to bother him one bit, as the former New England Revolution goalkeeper brought his A game against Japan. While conceding two goals, he made big saves to prevent the deficit from increasing further. Turner made six saves in total, including a series of acrobatic stops that hampered brilliant Japanese attackers Daichi Kamada and Daizen Maeda, and substitutes Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma.

The Japanese press caused USMNT problems with progress and possession

The difference in that game was undoubtedly the inability of the USMNT defenders and midfielders to cope with the high pressure from the Japanese.

Using a relatively standard 4-4-2 formation, Japan pushed USA into oblivion, not with an exhausting pace that would have diminished as the game progressed, but with a precision that pushed USA back and led to numerous embarrassing turnovers. Walker Zimmerman, Weston McKennie and Luca de la Torre particularly struggled with the pressure as the three became powerless in the build-up.

The result was a starved US attacking trio as Jesus Ferreira, Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson were effectively choked out of the game. It also resulted in turnovers in dangerous positions that pushed the US to recover against a poisonous Japanese counterattack.

Berhalter seemed to temporarily close the leak after half-time when he brought Reggie Cannon and Mark McKenzie off the bench, but eventually they too fell victim to Japanese tactical pressure.

With Japan providing World Cup opponents USA with a blueprint on how to attack the Americans’ possession, which has proven itself throughout qualifying against CONCACAF opponents, Berhalter needs to patch the holes quickly or face elimination from the group stage .

USMNT injuries are a concern as Pulisic, Musah and Jedi all missed

Undoubtedly, injuries played a worrying role in the USA’s defeat by Japan.

Already without starters Yunus Musah and Antonee “Jedi” Robinson at the start of September camp, news broke an hour before kick-off in Dusseldorf that talisman Christian Pulisic would miss the game after suffering a stroke in practice. Reports have it that Pulisic would have played if it was an important competitive game but USA were cautious about the friendly and put Chelsea ahead.

Her absence was felt to a great extent. Robinson’s two-way skills at left-back were crucial to Fulham’s glittering start to the Premier League season and his replacement Sam Vines was unable to reproduce the same attacking flair aided by Jedi’s improved one-on-one defensive skills becomes.

Additionally, Musah was sorely missed when Weston McKennie was forced into a ball carrier role that he is far less able to handle than his usual box-to-box style.

Finally, Pulisic’s absence was massive. While USA struggled to bring attackers into the game, the lack of “personality” (as Berhalter put it in his post-game press conference) was clear without their best creative forward.

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